I have now been a primary care physician (PCP) in Williamsport for more that forty years. During those years, our community has experienced many struggles but, well, nothing like this COVID-19 pandemic. My goals are to understand, recommend and prescribe the best available care for each patient and to prevent spread of this illness in our community.
What can a PCP practice do for you and our community?
A PCP practice is a team of nurses, secretarial staff, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and physicians who care for most medical issues faced by patients and are often involved in coordinating care from specialists and other health care providers.
For you: Our PCP practices endeavor to “specialize in you”. We learn extensively about you and your medical issues. As a team, we are available to offer care and advice. We keep track of many of your other medical needs. And, yes, we have a role in diagnosing and treating COVID-19 and its complications.
• We ask and learn about your personal story about contact with, symptoms and signs of possible COVID-19, and we then arrange appropriate testing.
• If you test positive for COVID-19, we give counsel as to how to manage your symptoms and establish isolation and quarantine procedures in order to reduce the opportunity for you to spread the virus.
• We counsel and arrange for monoclonal antibodies for those who would benefit.
• We advise seeking emergency room care for those who develop moderate or severe symptoms- especially low oxygen levels. An oxygen meter is very helpful in monitoring your condition.
• We offer hope when you are discouraged, including counseling or medication for emotional needs.
• We offer advice about how to handle other medical problems you may have as well as handling your family or business as it relates to the illness.
• We offer advice about caring for problems now called “long COVID” which may occur for many months following your recovery from the main illness.
• We evaluate when it would be wise to obtain one of the vaccines after recovery.
• We listen to your opinions and seek to help you understand how this illness looks to medical experts, knowing that there are many divisive opinions about COVID in the media and the public.
• We remain humble in learning and counseling change of strategies as more information becomes known. We teach respect for making decisions based on “best available evidence” at the time and a willingness to change recommendations as true scientific data itself changes.
• We complete needed documents for school and work – customizing our advice depending on your particular circumstances.
For the community:
• We advocate for reasonable strategies to contain the spread of the virus while reducing the harm to society imposed by overwhelming fear.
• We encourage full use of and benefits from the current vaccines.
• We encourage understanding of what, at times, appear to be conflicting information or advice by the public health officials.
• We seek opportunities to educate people in our community to the realities we see in our practices as we, too, struggle to find “best available” data to guide ourselves and you.
• We seek to understand those who hold different views of the virus, the vaccine, and unproven therapies. We seek to share current medical understanding, praying that our views will be considered.
Do you have a PCP? Should you? Of course, I am biased since that is what I do. But if you stop and think about what the most important values are in the services you need, primary healthcare has to rise to near the top. Navigating your way through the healthcare system is itself a daunting task. (I have been on both the PCP and the patient side of this!) A solid relationship with a PCP does make this navigation more likely to succeed. And PCP offices will continue to encourage your best health and healthcare in the years to come.
For those of you who are interested in becoming part of a primary care practice in this area, you might consider inquiring with a Family Practice Center PC office, or with River Valley Health and Dental Center, the Williamsport Family Medicine Residency Center, one of the office practices sponsored by Geisinger and UPMC, or a freestanding outpatient practice.
Jim Redka, MD, is a family physician practicing with FPC Cornerstone and is past president of the Lycoming County Medical Society.